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There is a great deal of substance to consider here. I want to focus on one aspect that has interested me in relation to other psi phenomena, if I may use that word for convenience.

To the obvious question “Can a functional entity affect a structural entity?” we must answer in the affirmative. A mathematical point has an effect on a surveyor and subsequently on a steam shovel and a railway line. One can be profoundly affected by the point of aim of a hidden person with a rifle!

In a word, "No." Surveying existed before anyone had defined a mathematical point, and one is affected only by the bullet, not the "point of aim."

The heart of my questions about the effects of these presumed "functional entities," and the effects in spacetime called "ESP," "Precognition," "Remote Viewing" and so on is the same:

What is the mechanism?

I'm open to the possibility that someone can have a mostly-correct vision of a future event, see something inside a sealed envelope or influence the distribution of numbers rolled by dice or even a computer. What is the mechanism, the means of transmission of information, or actual physical force, that might allow this? Until there is something testable and real in answer to this qustion, psi reamins, in my view, just speculation.

The "functional entity" is an interesting concept, but how does it hold a conversation or make a table move? If the sounds it makes are all through the vocal chords of the medium, in whatever charming Amerindian accent, isn't it just "Sybil" with Spiritualist trappings? I looked for the video of "Phillip" moving a table but the link was dead. I would love to see a video of a table move in a well-lighted room with no one near it. I have no doubt one of the readers here can provide a link.

I still will want to know what mechanism a non-physical entity is using that is exerting enough very physical pounds per square inch ("psi") on a physical object to make this happen.

"psi reamins, in my view, just speculation."

To expand my quote from LeShan's essay:

"Let us start with the fact that the spirit controls often demonstrate paranormal abilities and have information that they could not have acquired through normal channels of sense or by extrapolation from data so gathered. Who doubts that this is so simply has not read the relevant literature and further discussion with them is not useful until they do so."

I have no idea what the mechanism is, but it's not necessary to understand the mechanism in order to observe a phenomenon. People observed apples falling from trees for millennia before the theory of gravity was developed (and it is debatable if gravity qualifies as a mechanism anyway, since how it works is still unclear). People knew that aspirin had medicinal qualities long before they understood its method of action, which was determined only recently. Empirical facts remain facts even if the mechanism behind them is not understood.

You are on a roll, Michael. This is one of the best posts I've yet seen on your blog. Truly edifying.

I'm going to throw a couple ideas out:

1. I think the idea of functional entities here is pretty correct. I would also say that things like the ancient pagan gods would also fall in this category. I will again refer to the concept of tulpa:

Where I would depart from the description given by LeShan is that I'd say that the entities *can* have intentions and actions even when people are not thinking about them. Although the one control was confused when asked what he'd been up to, I believe (based on my very limited knowledge of accounts--perhaps others can comment) that not controls have this limitation, and some even seem to act spontaneously. Certainly pagan gods (if we accept that they are roughly in the same category) were seen as acting autonomously.

2. What could be a possible theoretical difference between a functional and a structural entity? I'll refer her to the concepts of "atman" (self) and "anatta" (not-self):

I'm just speculating here, but I would say a critical aspect of a structural entity is the dichotomy (and dialog) between self and not-self. Consider it this way, there is a fundamental paradox in trying to observe and understand yourself, since you become an "other" to your own self in the process of observation.

In contrast, perhaps a functional entity has no self/not-self dichotomy/dialog of its own but must rely on an external "other" to serve as as the "not-self." Thus, it is not so much that the entity does not exist without people "thinking about it" but that it exists only insofar as other entities are available to play the not-self role. We may extrapolate from this that functional entities could also exist in relation to *each other*, since they could play the not-self role for each other. And isn't this exactly what we find in a variety of spirit communications? For example, mediums often have more than one control that act as if they know each other.

3. An added twist is that we may serve as functional entities to our own selves. Consider two cases. The self of the past is still me, but it is not able to relate to me as an autonomous person. It exists only insofar as others relate to it. The second case is our past lives. More on this in a second.

4. But now I'm going to throw a wrench in the works. You ask how we know whether the spirits of the departed we communicate with are structural or functional entities? What if the answer is "both"?

They may be structural entities in relation to themselves and their world while being functional entities in relation to us. This would explain why mediums are never told that so-and-so can't talk because he/she has been reincarnated.

Thus, our past lives could related to us even as our past selves in this life relate to us: subordinate to us and existing as functional entities at the level of our current structural selves, yet fully independent and structural in relation to themselves.

All of these selves could be integrated on the same level within the Higher Self, which in turn would have its own atman/anatta dialog.

LeShan has been on my mind lately too. I think he's underrated as a thinker, and even more is important because he was actually able to heal people and train others to do so, as well as providing good instruction on meditation. I like people who cross the line that way. Just a did a blog post featuring him...

Michael, this most recent post of yours is a masterpiece.

As I keep saying, we are creating reality out of infinity with our myths and beliefs. Reality is very much more maleable than even the more open minded of us think it is. I also suspect strongly that the hypothesis you have put forward is involved in synchronicity.

"Why should we not classify at least some of the other spirit communicators this way?"

I think we should. You nailed it. That is why I don't see those sceances with rapping levitating tables, flying tamborines and ectoplasm, etc as proof of anything even when no deliberate fraud is detected.

However, I also think the mediumship conducted within experiments like those at the University of Arizona are immune from the processes you describe. Are you familiar with the experimental design? This, too, me offers superior scientific "proof" of an afterlife.

Thanks, Michael, for the stimulating and unbiased writing.

"If Uvani, a functional entity with no independent existence, brings through my Uncle George to talk to me, how can I know that Uncle George is not also a functional entity with no independent existence?"
Well for one thing, Uvani has not stated any veridicial details about his earthly existence were-as you uncle George Presumably has. Also many communicators do say what they are doing in their "off time" Kakie Sutton I've been with grandma stuff also spirit communicators sometimes say stuff that people would probably not want to hear "G,P: ITs awful to hear you play your violin rather than: sorry for not appreciating your violin playing in my life"
Also i am not sure that Alan Gauld was sure that much of the data could be explain by psi among the living. I think his reservations stem from his vast knowledge in neuroscience. Nevertheless a thought provoking post.

Very interesting. But I wonder if new terminology like 'functional entity' is really necessary. It seems to me that good old words like 'thought' and 'idea' pretty well cover this ground. By the way, I was an occasional guest of the Philip group and witnessed the phenomena a number of times. The rappings and table movements were extraordinary, but the table never moved when no-one was touching it. I too have heard of the apocryphal video showing a levitation, but have never seen it.


Thanks! I have RSSed your blog. Interesting!


Glad you enjoyed Matt! I like your recent sonnets.

LeShan's idea is the same as the superpsi hypothesis and unconscious dramatization of the medium. Which raises the question of how to know if the mediums communicators are inconscious of the medium with extrasensory powers or the independent minds of the dead.
Although it appears that medium's controls are the medium inconscious itself, I think that some communicators are independent minds of the dead, as we see on this page: -of-observations-of.html.

Thanks, Jason. Although I haven't put up a post since 2009. I need to get back into it!


I think LeShan's idea is different from super-psi in that he's trying to explain these seemingly "fake" spirit controls. He is not trying to explain away *all* spirit communications with an appeal to super-psi.




You are right, LeShan's idea will be to apply the superpsi hypothesis and dramatization of the medium only controls of the mediums.

Matt Rouge wrote:

I think the idea of functional entities here is pretty correct. I would also say that things like the ancient pagan gods would also fall in this category.

Check out "Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths?: An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination," which has received a 4.8-star rating at:

Here are quotes from the reviews:

"Behind the seemingly narrow and specialised title “Did Greeks believe in their myths?” really hides a philosophical essay on the nature of our world-view. What is truth, and is it possible that there’re many “truths”, not just one? Did the concept of truth in modern sense exist in ancient times? When did modern history begin and what’re its methods? What is myth, and isn’t our science (Einstein, Freud, etc.) also based on its own myth? What is the sociology of truth, and its social distribution? What is faith, and its relation to power? How should we read ancient cosmogonies? Is myth a way of thinking, or a kind of knowledge, or something else? When did the notion of “historical time” appear, and are other concepts of time possible?"

"Paul Veyne in this work attempts to look at the different conceptions of truth that have existed in different times. Not always has the standard for truth been verifyability. In the end, in a remarkably poignant chapter, he explains how our own notions of truth may explain our inability to break out of the fishbowl of modern life, inhibiting our conceptual imaginations, our ability concieve new structures and visions for our life. The analysis is very Nietzschean ...."

"Two millenia ago and counting Xenophanes observed that people tended to worship dieties culturally similar to themselves.

And so, people of India worshiped Indian born deities; people of Egypt worshiped Egyptian deities and Greeks worshiped Greek deities.

According to Xenophanes, the process demonstrated the inherently mythical nature of faith.

In Veyne's brilliant the point is made that perhaps another view is possible: that truth has a relativistic quality.

And also: that perhaps Xenophanes was being unduly dismissive.

In other words, we need not endow our myths we mutually exclusive truth. So your truth and my truth can be different but still...well...true.

Viewed this way there's a certain political correctness to Veyne's approach. If in creating our cultural deity we recognize the divine in ourselves, maybe after all, that's not such a bad thing."

However, I also think the mediumship conducted within experiments like those at the University of Arizona are immune from the processes you describe. Are you familiar with the experimental design? This, too, me offers superior scientific "proof" of an afterlife.

Have they made public transcripts of those readings? I think not....

The lack of public transcripts of the UA sessions is my major complaint about that particular body of research. I once raised this point in a private forum with someone connected with the UA research and was told they didn't have the resources to put the transcripts online. Nonsense. If the transcripts exist as electronic files, they could be put online simply by uploading them to the web server and adding a link to the homepage.

Has anyone seen this paper?

Has anyone seen this paper?

yes, it's worthless as a scientific read, but interesting for those who already believe in the conclusion.

I know that you have read Joe Fisher's book and there are other readers of this blog who have read Fisher's haunting book "The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts:A Riveting Investigation into Channeling and Spirit Guides",will recognize instantly the relevance this book has regarding the topic of the "functional reality" of spirit entities.

I am surprised that Fisher's investigation into the world of "spirit claims" of once inhabiting this world has yet to be mentioned here.
The book is an investigation of the discovery of a hypnotized non-believer medium who produced spirit entities and rather unwillingly at first, working within a group of intelligent believers over a period of years and arguing for their earth-bound existence in different countries in different centuries, the entities exhibiting enormously factual information regarding time, place, and geography of their earth experience but also leaving out or simply getting certain facts wrong while at the same time displaying overwhelmingly accurate information and historical detail.Fisher was never able to trace one spirit to any census, cemetery or local birth/marriage/death certificates.

Yet he found the principal spirit entity arguing, at first subtly, and then with uncharacteristic anger that despite Fisher's well detailed investigation, the spirit entity steadfastly implored that he simply MUST have existed.

Fisher mentions the extraordinary subtle manipulation and subsequent ruination of several of the sitting group members by the obviously intelligent, historically accurate (for the most part) and apparent moral and metaphysical advanced knowledge the spirits displayed, insidious and controlling manipulations began to arouse his own suspicions about who the entities really might be, especially his 17th century Greek speaking soul mate with whom he fell in love with and obviously effecting his marriage.

I own't give away the stunning ending.Did any of the studies or LeShan mention Joe fisher's investigation? Leshan's book may have preceded Fishers. If LeShan is still alive, I would love to get his response to "Siren Call".

I feel bad for always jumping into these conversations on your blog late--

My opinion is there's both a subjective, and an objective universe. The subjective universe may mimic laws of the objective universe, but it's ultimately controlled by the primary arbiter (the mind of the controller).

For instance, you can imagine hammering a nail, and physics are taking place, yet you could then imagine the hammer turns into a piece of shrimp.

The subjective world, however, is literally explored during dream-states. Here, laws of physics seem to occur (or at least they attempt, sometimes badly, to mimic real life) but they take second place to the controller- in this case the subconscious or over-mind of the dreamer, which creates scenarios, lessons and characters (for reasons I'm uncertain of..)

In a subjective state, a character may be created who appears to be vibrant and individualized, but we know the character is just an offshoot of the dreamer's imagination. I recall the story of Mark Twain's dreams, where he'd continually dream of a mysterious girl, who he felt a strong attachment to. Sometimes, it seems new, unique personalities are trying to burst forth into the objective world, but they must first be created within the subjective (maybe in this way, we're all a bit like God).

Now, back to the main point, LeShan's description of 'functional entities' is extremely vague. I think what he really means is a subjective personality-construct that is attempting to manifest into the 'here and now' and effect the objective. It's still not a sovereign entity, but perhaps it will eventually become one by some mysterious process we are unaware of.

So, spirit controls could be subjective mental states of the medium, characters created by the subconscious / over-soul of the individual. It's quite possible. It lends to the weird, foggy almost-reality that consists of the mediumship topic.

The only saving grace is, yet still, loved ones who come through certain mediums and verify their existences.

If there's an afterlife, I think it's possible a medium never even makes real contact with deceased individuals living in some type of alternate plane or reality. I think it would be more like the medium receives impressions of another entities consciousness, and relays information and feelings.

In other words, an astral entity is having a cup of ethereal tea and flying around the rings of Jupiter, or whatever the heck spirits actually do in their spare time, and a medium is tapping into this entities consciousness and relaying information.

If that's how mediums actually work, then I'd be suspicious of any character who appears to be engaging in a personal repertoire with the medium. I don't think it's impossible, I just think more often it would be some construct created by the over-mind.

Why our subconscious minds desire to create new characters, whether in dreams or seances, is unknown. Maybe the subconscious isn't really some intelligent, separate facet of ourselves so much as a function... a divine impulse to create new entities and worlds, and reinforce the functioning mind with ideas, while storing information.

Just some ideas. They may not make sense when I read this post in the morning.

P.S: One last thing, I think the main crux of mediumship shouldn't be whether Phillip the spirit really existed, but whether paranormal events actually occur. That's the important starting point, can figure the rest out from there.

Sorry to go off-topic, but I just saw this in the Wall Street Journal:

""Oh wow.” Two words that can have many meanings.

"Steve Jobs’s sister Mona Simpson has a moving tribute in the New York Times detailing some of his final moments and his last words.

"According to the article, titled “A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs,” Jobs’s last words were “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.” (The words were rendered in all capital letters in the essay.)"

Makes you wonder what he was experiencing, doesn't it?

The WSJ article then talks about other celebrities' last words and ends with this:

"According to various sources, including the book “Edison: Inventing the Century” by Neil Baldwin, hours before his death, Edison emerged from a coma, opened his eyes, looked upwards and said “It is very beautiful over there.”

"Which may be another way of saying “Oh wow.”"

We have to wonder if all mediums communicators are nothing more than unconscious constructions with extrasensory powers of the mind of mediums. I think not, among other reasons because of this.

If all mediums communicators are inconscious constructs with extrasensory powers, then there would be no relationship between the quality of communications and the time elapsed since the death of alleged communicators, because the medium might unconsciously develop the construct with the same efficiency. But this is not what happens, because Hodgson and others discovered that a few days of dying, communications are confusing and unclear, but after ten days or so, the communication becomes more clear and precise.

This fact is inexplicable to the hypothesis of unconscious contruct, and it can only explain the afterlife's hypothesis through the theosophical concept of second death: after death the spirit of the dead still have their astral body and would be overwhelmed by their most intimate desires , resulting in poor and unclear communication. After a few days, the dead body would follow their astral body and could communicate more clearly.

We may all be thought constructs. And if some physicists are to be believed everything is happening all at once and our perception of time as being linear is an illusion, past, present, and future are happening all at once.

And speaking of physicists and thought constructs in November on Nova(PBS) Brian Greene will be hosting The Fabric of the Cosmos. It will run 4 consectutive weeks.

The Fabric of the Cosmos: What Is Space?: Physicist Brian Green hosts "The Fabric of the Cosmos," a four-part series about space, time and the universe. Part 1, "What Is Space?," explains that space isn't the void it's often portrayed to be, but a dynamic tapestry that's manipulated by gravity. Included: dark energy, which accounts for 70 percent of the universe; a black hole-inspired theory that space is a hologram-like projection of a deeper two-dimensional reality. New (CC)

Related to MP's recent post about the victorian medium mania:

There is also a reference to the implication of the foundation of the SPR to some of these claims. Again it proves that a medium that won't submit to testing can't be taken too seriously.

Juan, that's an excellent point, and one of the better arguments for the independent reality of spirit communicators.

A related point is that some communicators seem to be consistently more skillful at conveying information than others. That is, some "spirits" seem to be good at communicating, while others seem to be less capable. This is hard to explain in terms of super-psi.

Regarding Joe Fisher, his tragic experience clearly shows the danger of becoming immersed in certain types of paranormal phenomena. There may be a good reason for the taboo against exploring the paranormal in most cultures. It's certainly possible that the "spirits" that he believed he had angered were mental constructs that somehow achieved (or appeared to achieve) a life of their own.

I just read another version of Steve Jobs final moments, which is even more suggestive of the kind of deathbed vision we so often read about:

"She concluded her eulogy by sharing Jobs’ final moments, which were spent staring lovingly at his family, and his final three monosyllabic words as he stared into the distance past their shoulders: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW."

I'd call that HIGHLY suggestive.

Interesting, Bruce. Sounds like a classic deathbed vision. Jobs was reportedly open to alternative therapies in treating his cancer, so it's conceivable he had an interest in the paranormal, as well.

He was described as 'looking beyond them' - deceased relatives coming to greet him perhaps?

Jobs was a buddhist so he was likely unsurprised by the notion of continuing awareness

One of the best books on death bed visions is:

"The Art of Dying" by Elizabeth & Peter Fenwick, Pubished by Continuum in 2008

Steve Job's DBV is entirely consistent with the cases described in this book.

Peter Fenwick, is one of the world's foremost NDE-researchers, in case some of you did not know.

Hi Rudolf Smit, any news on the attempt to contact Dr. Lloyd Rudy?

Sorry sbu, no news as yet about Dr Lloy Rudy. I know that attempts to contact him have been made, but so far unsuccessful.

I'm concerned that IANDS might damage their credibility by pointing to that youtube video on the front page. It doesn't appear very scientific and the video could turn out to be a hoax.

I think you are trying to apply concepts from our level of reality to the spirit levels. And our concepts are really illusions anyway. Are we really "structural." or are we actually as "functional" as the spirit controls?

We don't know much at all about the spirit levels. I think they are higher, or different, dimensional planes. They are more "mental" and less "physical" than our level.

But is there really a difference between "mental" and "physical?"

You are right in saying we are immersed in the materialist philosophy, whether we are conscious of it or not. Science tells us certain things are "real" and "physical."

All these concepts are words that we have grown up with and it's hard for us to see past them.

When we are dreaming, the "physical" rules don't apply. So much of our daily experience is actually spent in dream worlds, which our society has taught us to discount as unreal.

But maybe our dreams are more real than our waking experience.

Excellent article. You attract an interesting audience of thinking people.

I find it interesting that your article does not mention "Tulpas". Is there not a clear connection?

It seems to me that Dr. Jung's personal "Tulpa", functional entity, was Philemon, an extremely important element of his psyche. I find it surprising that the Index to Dr. Jung's collected works has no reference for "Tulpa".


Rip Parker

Rip, thanks for your comment. Like you, I would guess that tulpas, or thought-forms, would be construed as functional entities in LeShan's approach.

The idea of 'functional entities' pretty much sounds like the egregores, or servitors, of some types of magic (or 'magick', if you want to make sure it's not confused with stage magic). I don't know much about that, but one idea seems to be that they should be given an automatic expiring date when they are created because otherwise they can continue to exist even after the magician's death, develop an independent character and can become a nuisance for those people they can interact with. Or sometimes even actually dangerous.

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